Campaigners write to Tesco and Sainsbury’s to keep meat inspectors independent

The supermarkets are yet to respond to the letter from the UK E Coli Support Group. Campaigners fear that meat safety is already being threatened.

03/01/2018
Food and Farming Policy

 

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Sustain member H.U.S.H., who are the UK’s E.coli Support Group, have written to Sainsbury’s and Tesco to ask for reassurance that meat will continue to be safe for consumers. H.U.S.H. are concerned that the Food Standard’s Agency plans to reduce the number of meat inspectors employed by the Government.

The letter (which you can read in full below) was sent on the 21 December 2017 and there has of yet been no response. However Steve Nash, who started the petition to keep meat inspectors independent, is concerned that meat safety is already being jeopardised:

“We were surprised to find that Sainsbury’s had a product recall on 22nd December of their Taste the Difference Aberdeen Angus Quarter Pounder Burgers. This appears to be due to a scare regarding the product containing E.coli O157. Twelve people appear to have been affected, but reports suggest that Public Health England have stated that these people have now recovered.”

H.U.S.H. are very interested to hear a response from their letter to Tesco in light of the hygiene problems some shoppers had with their Christmas turkeys.

Here is the letter that Steve Nash sent to Tesco:

 

Dear Sir,

We are sure that your company is aware of the meat hygiene scandals that have recently been in the media, namely the chicken plant in West Bromwich, (covered by the Guardian and ITV News) that appears to supply your company and the “Blowing the whistle on the Meat Industry” by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism & ITV.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) are planning to reduce the frequency of meat hygiene inspections, reduce the number of directly employed Meat Hygiene Inspectors (MHIs) in slaughterhouses and to continue the practice of them not being present in cutting plants, through a freeze on recruiting new MHIs. 

This will mean more official controls will be in the private sector, which does not appear to be what your customers support, as a UNISON meat inspection survey by COMRES indicated in December 2016. When the public were asked in this survey whether “Slaughterhouses should be required to have their food safety and quality standards independently assessed by external Government inspectors”, 87% agreed.

Also in this survey, in relation to fewer inspections, 74% of adults across all political persuasions in England and Wales, said they would be concerned about changes that would see fewer independent inspections by FSA vets and inspectors, and more inspections by private contractors & slaughterhouse themselves.

We believe the survey suggests that the public do not trust the industry that produces the meat to be independent, but they do trust Government employed MHIs.

Given the above, do Tesco believe the FSA are taking the best course of action to protect the public from food-borne illness, is by reducing independent meat hygiene inspection services, or do Tesco believe the FSA’s course of action is wrong? We would be happy to have your company’s view on this.

We also wish wish to know if Tesco believe that they have a moral obligation to ensure their suppliers meet all hygiene regulations, and if so how you take practical steps to achieve this? 

The public, as well as our small national charity, have some serious concerns which are demonstrated by the petition above. This petition has reached over 101,000 votes of support to date. 

We look forward to your response.

Yours faithfully,

Steve Nash
 

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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.